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Inclusionary housing the way to go

Posted: September 17, 2008 8:43 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Affordable housing is quite the buzzword these days.

From the city's rush to approve a new housing element that meets state law in this area, to a developer in the county who used that law to push through a senior project in a high-fire-hazard zone, and Valencia Industrial Association's luncheon meeting on the subject, it seems that this problem has somehow just come to everyone's attention.

As of 2008 there are 80,000 dwelling units in the Santa Clarita Valley - 57,000 in the city and 2,3000 in the county. Another 42,000 dwelling units have received land use approval - 36,000 in the county and 6,000 in the city.

Several thousand more dwelling units are the subject of pending land use applications.

So it was no surprise that the issue of affordable housing was once again before the City Council last week. This time the subject was funds for affordable housing required in the Newhall Redevelopment Area being transferred out to a Canyon Country apartment building. The City Council voted to approve this proposal.

Redevelopment law requires that 20 percent of the tax increment be set aside for affordable housing. Because a redevelopment area is considered blighted (that's why it was put into redevelopment in the first place), renovation will undoubtedly displace the lower-income residents of the area.

With this issue in mind, legislators felt it was important to ensure that affordable housing would be replaced.
The apartment complex targeted by the City Council for this maneuver already had 14 low-income affordable units. That made it inclusionary housing, where some units are affordable while others are at market rates.

Inclusionary housing ensures that lower-income folks are integrated into communities and not isolated in housing dedicated solely to low income. With the council's action almost half of the residents of that apartment complex will have to move because they don't qualify under the low income rule. The council's decision requires that all of the residents now be low income.

Why is inclusionary housing so important? Because it avoids the problem of pockets of poverty, where crime tends to be higher, and isolation that may encourage discrimination. It includes all incomes within one neighborhood, giving everyone the chance to be involved with each other as friends and neighbors.

Children from these neighborhoods all attend the same schools. With this kind of housing mix, problems experienced elsewhere in government housing projects just don't exist.

All those who attended the city's public meeting on affordable housing strongly supported inclusionary housing.
So why is the city now trading away affordable housing in an area that will really need it and eliminating an inclusionary apartment in another, thereby creating a situation that may cause problems in the future?

SCOPE believes that affordable housing should benefit the community and the people that need the housing. That goal is best achieved when both the law and the intent of the law are followed.

Putting high-density housing all in one area where lower-income families then become isolated from the general community does not serve this goal. Trading the 20 percent affordable housing requirement in the Newhall Redevelopment Area for apartments in Canyon Country that are currently inclusionary serves neither the needs of Newhall nor those of Canyon Country.

Cam Noltemeyer is a board member for SCOPE, the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily that of The Signal.


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